Friday, 28 August 2009

27th August – The Debate Continues

The Great Debate continued today as to exactly which lion was feeding on the giraffe kill with the three Mahlathini males! Some guides believe it is one of the Timbavati males, others say not. I have compared photographs and found the lion to be the same as a male I photographed on the 12th July, feeding on a buffalo that the Machaton pride had killed, and had been feeding on with their new born cubs. This would be pretty conclusive proof that the lion is the same one, and hence one of the Timbavati males, bar the fact that there was a report of all three Timbavati male lions being seen together in the far south!

I am convinced that the two lions that I photographed are the same, and the only possible explanation that I can come up with is that the male that was feeding on the buffalo kill with the Machaton pride less than 100m away, and still moving too and from the area of the kill, was not in fact one of the Timbavati males, and that this intruding male (that none of the guides managed to pick up as a different lion) might have just been taking advantage of another lion prides kill; just as he is doing at the moment! We shall just have to wait and see what happens, but it is a nice problem to be sitting with!

Anyway, Thursday was another nice day in the Timbavati, with some more good game viewing. Up north, the four male lions were still at their giraffe kill, but all the lions were looking decidedly fat and lazy, and the fighting that Elliot watched last night had subsided. The vultures had spotted the kill and started their long and patient wait for the lions to finish up and move off, but they will probably be waiting for another three or four days before they get a chance to feed. Elliot also found the two young Sohebele male lions near Karan’s Big Dam, and he followed them for a while until they settled down to rest. They have still not eaten, and there have been no signs of any of the other pride members for the last few days; which is becoming rather worrying.

I decided to go drive in the south, primarily in the hope of seeing the new hyena cubs that were found in a new hyena den north of Hide dam. The cubs were seen for the first time three days ago, and Palence has had a brief sighting of them, but they are still very small, a few weeks old, and understandably weary of the vehicles. It won’t take long for them to relax, as the Rockfig hyenas from the clan are very habituated to the vehicles. Sadly though, I only saw two adult hyenas at the den, but both soon moved off and after waiting for a while, there was still no sign of the pups, so we left the den site. After seeing two small groups of zebras, we did find the two adult hyenas again, south of Hide dam, and watched them for a while. The one had a head covered in blood, but they didn’t lead us back to any kill, so we left them.

After some giraffe and a cup of coffee, we found a very big herd of elephant south of Entrance dam, feeding in the area adjacent to the Machaton riverbed. It was nice to watch the herd moved across a nice open area towards us, and then to be surrounded my many other herd members as they moved slowly northwards. I would guess that there were at least 40-50 elephants.

I did leave the elephants a bit prematurely, but only because I received a radio call telling me that a leopard had just walked past a nearby camp, and was heading towards Palm crossing. I made my way into the area, but found no sign of the leopard. My tracker then eventually found tracks heading north from Vielmetter trough, and we eventually found the leopard; it was Rockfig female leopard. I hadn’t seen this leopard for over three weeks, and was keen to see how her ear was healing; last time the ear was looking okay, a dark scab had formed and there didn’t appear to be any open flesh wounds. Sadly, this was not what we saw this morning. Rockfig was lying in some wild sage, and I could see that her wound had opened up again, and she was constantly rubbing and scratching at it, but it didn’t look too bad. After a few minutes she got up, and we followed, but this time we were moving parallel to her, and could see the whole right side of her body, and it was not good. Her ear was looking awful; there was no skin on top of the ear, she had scratched it all off leaving a blood red, open wound, but now the wound had spread and she has an even larger area in front of the ear which is now open and looking very sore. It was sad to see, but she is one tough cat, and hopefully she can pull through this without getting any serious infections which could potentially be fatal. The wound thankfully does not look infected, and on the whole, Rockfig is looking in very good shape – she is well fed and not looking uncomfortable, so I am not going to worry myself about this lovely lady just yet! We followed her for a while before she jumped up a large apple-leaf tree and went to sleep high up in the shady canopy it provided.

During breakfast, there were two bull elephants that wandered down to the lodge's waterhole for a drink, and they were again seen in the afternoon drinking at Trade Entrance pan. I also found another two elephant bulls west of the airstrip, and they were in the company of a large herd of giraffe and some male kudus. We also ticked off some steenbok, duiker, hippo, waterbuck and impala, and then slowly made our way towards the four lions on the giraffe kill just before sunset. Earlier in the afternoon, the nervous young male leopard that we have been seeing around Mbali dam approached the giraffe kill, but soon moved off, and was actually seen by three of our game drive vehicles; he was a bit nervous, but wasn’t running away; he just kept his distance from the land rovers, but was soon lost in a drainage line and was not followed any longer. As for the lions, well they were still fat, and still sleeping! The bigger male was lying about 80m from the three Mahlathini males which lay nearer to the carcass, but they were so fat that they didn’t even bother moving off when we drove within 15m of them – a good sign, the slow habituation process continues!

Palence was having his sundowner at Klipdrift crossing, but had to cut it a bit short when he spotted Mbali female leopard wandering along the riverbed in his direction! He and his guests all jumped back into the Land Rover and followed the leopard for a while, but left her when she went into a thick drainage line west of Francolin pan.

One elephant visited the camp waterhole just before dinner, and then suddenly the wind picked up, and by the time we went to bed, the thunder and lighting was around, and even a few drops of rain fell, but nothing of substance. I awoke in the early hours of the morning with a large elephant feeding right outside my bedroom window, and by that stage, the rain and the wind had ceased. It would be good for the bush if the rains came early this year, so we will hold thumbs!


  1. Thank you once again for such great posts. I love to follow your animals by your blog.

  2. I came to take a look at your blog and can’t stop looking at the pictures of the animals. I shall come back to read more of your past posts.